Twenty Filipino workers who returned from Sierra Leone, where there is an epidemic of Ebola, are being monitored by the Department of Health (DOH).
The workers arrived home between June 26 and July 15, the DOH said in its website on Friday.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said an inter-agency meeting was organized by the Office of Migrant Workers of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) last June 30 to discuss the status of the overseas Filipinos in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, countries in West Africa that are experiencing Ebola outbreaks.
Ebola is a severe and often fatal viral disease in humans and primates. The DOH said it can be transmitted through close contact with blood secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals, body fluids and stools of an infected person, through contaminated needles and soiled linen used by infected patients, or direct contact with the body a deceased person.
The disease has killed at least 700 people in West Africa.
The DOH said the Philippines is still Ebola-free, but it urged returning OFWs with fever, headache, intense weakness, joint and muscle pains and sore throat to seek clearance with local health authorities from their country of employment before being allowed to return home.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has raised Alert Level 2 in the three affected countries, and the deployment of OFWs with new contracts has been suspended.
The DOH’s Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) will determine the status of returning Filipinos and refer those exhibiting the symptoms of the disease to the appropriate health facilities.
Those that do not have the symptoms will still be closely monitored daily by the Health Emergency Management Staff (HEMS) of the DOH.
The department advised suspected Ebola cases to be taken immediately to the nearest health facility. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Ebola.
Ona said the most at risk to contract Ebola infection are health care workers and laboratory workers who may be exposed to secretions and specimens from infected individuals. Family members and those in close contact with those who are sick can also become infected.
Prevention measures include: 1) avoiding close contact with infected patients; 2) avoiding consumption of the raw meat of possible infected animals like fruit bats, monkeys or apes; 3) wearing gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment when taking care of ill patients at home; and 4) washing hands after visiting sick relatives in the hospital and after taking care of ill patients at home.
Ebola’s fatality rate ranges from 52 percent to 75 percent.
WHO has described the Ebola epidemic in West Africa as “precarious,” with continuous transmission of infections in both the community and among health facilities. A recent surge in the number of cases in Guinea has revealed that community transmission had gone undetected and that outbreak-containment measures need to be scaled up, particularly effective contact tracing, DOH said.
A 40-year-old male, who was a naturalized American, was reported recently to WHO to have died in Lagos, Nigeria, after traveling from Liberia.